“Every Mortal in the world possesses Rei — the elemental aspect to their physical body. Each Rei is composed of the Five Elements: Fire, Air, Water, Earth and Spirit. Some creatures have more of one Element than the others, but Humanity has the benefit of having their Rei in total elemental balance.
Do you doubt this?
Feel the warmth upon your brow! That is the heat from your Inner Fire.
The blood and fluids within you is your Inner Water.
The breath within your lungs is your Inner Air.
The bones within your flesh is your Inner Earth.
And your Spirit flows through you and out of you, connecting you to everything and nothing. One’s inner spirit cannot be felt or seen — but it can be known”
– Shinju, the Son of Dreaming and the founder of the Wu Jen
The Kenrei believe that every person is composed of the Five Elements (also called the Five Rei): Fire, Wind, Water, Earth and Spirit. Slight imbalances among the Elements can be lesser diseases or minor emotions; major discord can lead to Illness, Madness or even Death.
Thus do the people of the Obsidian Kingdom seek to balance their inner being to bring balance to their physical being.
According to the writings of Shinju, Son of the Dream-Dragon, Midworld is where the Hells and the Heavens met. When Wyrm, the Mother of All Dragons and the Eternal Empress, saw Midworld, she and her Children were moved by its beauty and sought to protect it against all that would despoil it.
From the depths of the Aether came the Demons, rapacious and fell. They sought to destroy all things, for their nature was destruction and chaos.
Demon and Dragon fought for eons, ravaging the universe with their brutality.
At the war’s end, the Demons were defeated – their leaders, the Demon Princes, were shattered into lesser aspects or imprisoned within the Vaults of the Underworld.
However, the Dragons’ victory was bought at the greatest of ransoms: the Eternal Empress was slain by the Demons.
The greatest Children of Wyrm were the Totems: The Dragon of Dreams, the Dragon of Sand, the Dragon of Thunder, the Dragon of Rivers and the Dragon of Skies. They mourned their fallen Mother and the grievous injuries borne by Midworld, but they knew that Wyrm would rise again (for she was without death) and Midworld’s wounds could be mended.
When they set upon repairing the world, the Totems discovered new beings that inhabited Midworld. Wrought by the mixture of Demon blood and Draconic essence, these were the Mortal Races, creatures formed of Sin and Virtue, of Conflict and Balance. Unlike the Dragons, the Mortals were formed with Body and Soul; they possessed the means to ascend into the Heavens and join with the Dragons in harmony… but they also possessed the capacity for Sin that could unleash the Demons from their prisons.
The Totems saw these creatures as abominations, but the Dream Dragon stayed their hand; “These are creatures of Prophecy” claimed the wisest of the Totems, seeing into the mists of Fate. “the Eternal Empress would have desired that they fulfill their Destiny”
The Totems and their vassals grew into discord on the matter of the Mortals’ fate, but it was the Sky Dragon that broke their stalemate and halted their warring. At the Sky Dragon’s behest, the Children of Wyrm retreated from Midworld, watching the Mortal Races and waiting for them to fulfill the Dream Dragon’s prophecy.
Of all the peoples of Midworld, it would be the Lotus Queen of the Obsidian Kingdom that would prove herself and her Race to the Totems. So pleased and impressed were the Totems that they gave her the Strength to lead her people and to create a new paradise amidst the desolation of the Obsidian Wastes.
To this day, the Men and Women of Kenrei are especially blessed by the Totems. Though the elements are cruel to those that dwell within the Obsidian Wastes, they are kind to the Kenrei and their lands.
It is also written by Shinju that the Demon Princes would rise up once more to destroy Midworld. At that point, Wyrm and her Children would be joined by the virtuous souls of Kenrei to bring balance to the universe.
The Kenrei believe that their status in the afterlife is dependent on their adherence to honor (Gi or Righteousness), the esteem of their ancestors (Kho or filial piety) and the internal balance of their Rei (i.e. spiritual health).
– Those who follow Gi, the Virtue of Righteousness, are paragons of respectfulness, benevolence and ethical rectitude. They respect their betters, they are kind to others and follow the laws as well as their own words and promises.
– To gain Kho or filial piety, a soul must honor them often (at least once a day), uphold the reputation of one’s lineage and respect their filial elders (respect parents/grandparents – respect elder siblings).
– To preserve the balance of one’s Rei, a Mortal must avoid corruptive objects and activities, act with moderation and perform meditative and/or creative acts (such as meditation, a martial kata, painting or any art form).
Souls who have lived according to the three principles above ascend to the heavens and join the splendors of the Adamantine Empress’ court. They descend from the heavens to guide and protect their descendants in times of trouble, but otherwise remain with the spirit of the Adamantine Empress until her re-awakening and the birth of a new world.
The Fate of the Damned
Those who fail to follow Gi are taken by demons and taken to the Infinite Hells to suffer for each injustice or sin that they have committed (such as the Hell of Jagged Swords for those who murder commoners and the Hell of Tiny Teeth for those who murder children). This fate is inflicted upon them until they have suffered completely for their sins a hundredfold, after which they are reborn into Midworld.
Those who do not honor their Ancestors at all are not guided into the heavens. Accursed by the spirits of the past, they are doomed to remain on Midworld to suffer as ghosts until they are put to rest or until their spirits are somehow put to right. Many souls of this fate turn savage and feral, especially if they are unrighteous sinners – when they are put to rest, they descend into the Hells to face their deserved punishment.
Failing to preserve the balance one’s Rei risks corruption and imbalance, thereby bringing illness, madness or even curses to one’s self. In the worst circumstance, those with their Rei in utter disharmony may even be possessed by a Demon and dragged into the Infinite Hells.
An great feat of sacrifice can redeem one who has failed to follow the Virtue of Righteousness and/or failed to follow the principle of filial piety. This usually means an act of heroism that saves many in exchange for one’s own life. Similarly, committing ritual suicide can cleanse one’s self of the dishonor wrought unto family and ancestry.
Inner disharmony is also a difficult affliction to cleanse. Often times, deferring to the guidance of a Wu-Jen can aid one in realigning one’s soul. Also, forsaking sinful and/or pleasurable acts or taking up an ascetic’s path can help purify one’s soul of corruption.
View on Magic:
The Kenrei view magic as communion with the Spiritual World and the Material World. Those who show talents in the arena of Witchery or Totemry (Adept Magic) are considered to be blessed by the Elemental Spirits and usually join the Wu-Jen to further advance their studies. Some Shen magic-users remain with their families, serving their lords as advisors and maintaining their status as Shen – other Shen leave the trappings of the world behind to meditate with the Wu-Jen. Naturally, some Witches and Adepts can serve neither group and walk a path of their own selfish ends.
To the Kenrei, Mystics practice the purest form of magic, combining physical form, spiritual power and mental discipline. Witches, Priests and Adepts are also revered within the Wu-jen and their powers are honed. Unfortunately, the chaotic powers of the Berserker and the Zephyr are not conducive to the trainings of the Wu-Jen, so they often find service under a master as warriors of great prowess if they do not work for their own purposes.
The Priests of Kenrei are magic-users that have managed magic through sheer discipline, spiritual knowledge and devout piety. Through strict adherence to their ethos and the lore of the elements themselves, they use symbols and prayers to change the world around them.
Sorcery is considered to be a corruptive magic in Kenrei. The stories and rumors of Sorcerers in the Obsidian Kingdom often find them in the roles of villain, villainous minion or hapless victim of his own power.
Looked upon as criminals and sinners, Sorcerers often hide their abilities, often working for their own ends. Some find work under Yakuza (criminal syndicates), wealthy merchants or unscrupulous Shen. Shadowsouls are especially common among the Lotus Eaters, who ritually introduce Umbral Parasites amongst worthy initiates in order to create powerful Shadow Magi.
Ishi-ryu-do: the Eternal Harmony of the Elements
Ishi-ryu-do is more than Faith; it is Knowledge.
It is more than Serenity; it is Harmony.
Lastly, it is greater than Life, it is Truth.
Ishi-ryu-do is the Eternal Harmony of the Elements, first walked by the Lotus Queen and studied by her son, Shinju the Dreamer. It is a philosophical faith that seeks Harmony with one’s internal elements as well as Harmony with the energies of the world. They give reverence and respect to the energies and spirits of the world – especially the Dragons – but they recognize that these forces can be dangerous.
Those who follow Ishi-ryu-do call themselves Ishi-ryu-den or, more commonly, Shii (plural and singular). To be Shii represents a divine mandate of self-improvement and balancing one’s Rei.
Founded by Shinju, the Son of Dreaming, Ishi-ryu-do is the state religion of Kenrei; it reveres the Obsidian Throne’s divine mandate to rule and seeks to balance the elements and the spirits of Kenrei. Of his brothers, Shinju had no desire to rule over his mother’s Kingdom. Instead, the Son of Dreaming simply wanted to bring the people of Kenrei into harmony with themselves and the world around them.
Himself a powerful Witch, he gathered the Witches and the Adepts of the Obsidian Kingdom to his teachings. These were the first Wu Jen. While the peoples of the Obsidian Wastes already were aware of the many elemental powers and entities that surrounded them, the Son of Dreaming unified the tribal approaches of the Kenrei to their spirit-magic. Shinju also sought to focus the Wu Jen not only on respect and knowledge of the world around them, but also harmony within one’s Rei.
Besides the mental serenity and peace that the Ishi-ryu-do mindset provides, its physical benefits can also be seen. Many (but not all) Shii are long lived unless struck down by malice, disease or misfortune; a rare few have even lived up to their two-hundredth summer! In comparison, most Humans in Midworld rarely live beyond their 60th year before dying of old age.
Knowing that the chaos of Midworld made following Ishi-ryu-do a herculean task, the Son of Dreaming sought isolation for himself and his students. He led his followers to the steam-shrouded mountains north of the Obsidian Wastes, dubbing them the “Pillars of Meditation”. The Wu Jen built their monasteries and temples upon the forbidding peaks, near the hot springs and the volcanic vents.
The Wu Jen lived there in isolation with Shinju until year 402 of the Kenrei calendar, during the “Five Day War”; the Obsidian Throne demanded tribute and taxes from the Wu Jen, ignoring the exemptions set by Terasu. When Shinju did pointed out his brother’s law, the Obsidian Throne went to war with the Son of Dreaming. Before the King reached the foothills of the Pillars, his army had slain many of the Wu Jen — none of them had raised a single finger to defend themselves against the King.
During the 5th night of the war, Shinju appeared in the King’s tent and offered himself to the King’s sword. Blinded by his rage, the King struck down Shinju. The reports of witnesses know only of a powerful wind that tore through the encampment and created a massive crater where the King’s tent once stood.
The King committed ritual suicide the very next day after sending a message to his eldest son. The new King, Terasu Yuusha, had his father’s name stricken from all records and the tragic tale of Shinju’s death spread across the Kingdom.
The Wu Jen were never the same after Shinju’s sacrifice. Without Shinju’s leadership they factioned into four different groups; one of them built a new monastery in the Kingdom’s capitol: the Temple of Summer Flowers. The others retreated to their own strongholds, each devoted to a specific aspect of Ishi-ryu-do. Each and every Shii is considered to be part of the same religion, even though their focus is different.
The Order of Bright Flame: believes that Ishi-ryu-do is keened by conflict and hardship, by seeking the truth amid the shadows of the world. The Temple of Bright Flame stands at the mouth of a semi-dormant volcano. The Wu Jen of the Bright Flame feature deadly martial artists and brilliant alchemists. Some radical members of this Order go out to seek challenges amongst the beasts and the hazards of the Obsidian Wastes. The King of Kenrei has a small squad of these Priests to help his military.
The Order of the Dreaming Cloud: believes in the purity of asceticism and isolationism. These Wu Jen build their monasteries on the peaks of the Pillars of Meditation, separated from the world and rarely seen. It is rumored that the Order of the Dreaming Cloud possess ancient secrets and lores, that they practice the purest forms of magic among the Wu Jen. It is only by the command of the Order’s leader that the Dreaming Cloud sends a Wu Jen into the world — these Wu Jen are often socially unworldly and bear carry the most necessary physical possessions.
The Order of the Shifting Sands: believes that the mysteries of Ishi-ryu-do cannot be found through solely isolation but through bringing balance to the world and through new experiences. These Wu Jen wander the land, establishing shrines in villages, using their magic to help villagers and bringing their experiences back to their hidden Temples.
The Order of Summer Flowers: believes that Ishi-ryu-do must be spread across the populace of Kenrei. Their temples and monasteries are within the Kingdom’s cities; they teach the faith to citizens and help them in their daily lives. The Wu Jen of the Summer Flowers enjoy especially good relations with the Obsidian Throne.
The Chosen and the Clergy of Ishi-ryu-do cleave to the Five Pillars of Heaven — their five guidelines on how to live their life and achieve inner harmony.
– Calmness: The Shii must exercise prudence and prevent emotions from directing their actions and dark passions from poisoning their spirit.
– Piety: The Shii must protect, respect and nurture the bonds that bind them: the bond to family and to friend, to follower and to lord, and above all, the bond to Heaven and the Self.
– Principle: The Shii must conduct themselves with honestly and sincerity. This means spurning corruptive objects, people and actions.
– Rectitude: The Shii must give respect to who truly deserve it and compassion to those who truly need it.
– Reverence: The Shii must give respect to the elemental spirits of the world. Even hostile spirits (such as Fire Elementals) must be dispatched with the appropriate reverence that they deserve.
Symbol and Colors: A circle with a square within it. Sometimes, it is simply a plain circle. Other times, geometric ornamentation and embellishment is added to the symbol to lend it complexity.
The colors of Ishiryudo are dependent on the Order of a particular Wu Jen.
The Order of Bright Flame — (Orange, White)
The Order of Dreaming Clouds — (Grey, Brown)
The Order of Shifting Sands — (Brown, White)
The Order of Summer Flowers — (Purple, Blue)
The Order of Bright Flame — (Battle, Creation)
The Order of Dreaming Clouds — (Knowledge, Tranquility, Fate)
The Order of Shifting Sands — (Chaos, Inquisition)
The Order of Summer Flowers — (Creation, Tranquility)
Spells: Priests of this faith invoke “Ishi-ryu-do”, the Eternal Harmony of the Elements, when they perform their spells.
Their damaging spells convey Silver Damage.
The celebrants and priests of this faith are called Wu Jen. Included among the Wu Jen are Witches (although rarely Dark Witches) that achieve harmony through the favor of the spirits as well as those who have gained their magic through study, discipline and devotion to the teachings of Ishi-ryu-do. Though Mystics are now found worldwide, their methodologies were invented by Shen the Repentant, an Ishi-ryu-do practitioner who tempered his elemental talents with iron discipline.
The faith itself is loosely structured, with four ranks. Each Wu Jen is titled with his or her Order in mind. A Novitiate from the Order of Summer Flowers would be known as a “Hana no Jinin”. Similarly, an Apostle from the Dreaming Clouds Order might refer to himself as a “Gumo no Dai-Jinshu”.
Novitiate (Jinin) – those who first join the Wu Jen or Wu Jen-born children who come of age become Jinin, novices in the Ishi-ryu-do’s mysteries. The life of a Jinin is difficult as they learn to balance the physical difficulties of their chores with the academic difficulties of their studies and the spiritual hardship of their meditations. Some Wu Jen remain as Jinin for most of their lives; the Novitates make up a third of the Wu Jen population.
Acolyte (F=Miko, M=Jinshu) – The Acolytes of the Wu Jen make up at least half of the populace. These are Jinin that have passed the tests of the Wu Jen to fully awaken into their powers. These are Witches that have learned to fully control their powers, Adepts who can call upon their Totems and Priests that are finally able to harness their faith into magic.
Apostle (F=Dai-Miko, M=Dai-Jinshu) – The Apostles of the Wu Jen lead rituals and direct their lessers. They are usually found managing temples and teaching Novitiates.
Dai-Jinshu and Dai-Miko are created only through appointment by the leaders of their Orders or through the designation of their replacements. When a Temple is without a leader, one of its senior Acolytes is elected by their peers as a temporary replacement.
Elemental Sage (Tenshi): The Elemental Sage is the leader of a particular order. The Sages are wise and mysterious individuals, possessed by magics so great that they appear almost divine.
The process of becoming an Elemental Sage is a closely guarded secret. However, it is believed that the Tenshi’s powers render them immune to the ravages of time and that all Tenshi are blessed with the experiences of their predecessors.
There are only four Tenshi in the Obsidian Kingdom. Each has given up their names and their past to become an Elemental Sage.
Honou no Tenshi is the leader of the Bright Flame. A well-built warrior, his skin covered in the holy brands of his Order. He is feared and revered by his followers for his strength and the purity of his wrath. It is believed that the volcano beneath the Temple of Bright Flame remains dormant through his will alone.
Gumo no Tenshi is the leader of the Dreaming Cloud. He is an ancient, spindly man tented by the loose robes of his Order and marked with empty eye sockets. He is prone to making prophetic pronouncements regarding the fate of the world; his followers endeavor to record everything he has ever said. He has recently designated a successor to his title, saddening the many Wu Jen who consider him to be a father as well as a teacher.
Suna no Tenshi is the leader of the Shifting Sands. She is said to take the shapes and forms of beasts and birds, but her primary form is said to be a short old woman with an impish grin. She travels the length and breadth of Midworld and possesses lores on almost every subject in Midworld — her followers believe that she can speak every language ever written and cast any kind of spell.
Hana no Tenshi is the leader of the Summer Flowers. She appears to be an ageless woman with long black tresses that smells of chrysanthemum. Those who have met her claim to feel hale and good natured around her. The Kenrei say that she can make flowers bloom by singing and end droughts through her laughter. Despite the fact that her Temple is located within the capitol, she is rarely seen.